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Evaluation of Facebook: Educational Tool, Marketing Tool, Data Security

Facebook is the world's most popular social network (Arrington 3). Over a span of 6 years, it has experienced a massive growth, evidenced by reaching 1.59 billion of monthly active users as recorded on 31st December, 2015. To more than a sixth of the total world population, Facebook is an important tool in life that has given them an ability to connect and communicate with people from any part of the world. This online social network has brought numerous benefits for students, businessmen, leaders, politicians, celebrities and other people. The major benefit is the connectivity that the site allows. For instance, companies can easily reach customers across the world by advertising on Facebook. Media houses can also converse with their target audience during their live programs to get their feedbacks, and celebrities can talk to their fans instantly (Arrington 5). Facebook has also increased internet use in many countries thereby benefiting many businesses, such as Cybercaf's, mobile data providers and internet service providers. Despite some access issues in countries like Afghanistan, the influence of this corporation on the world can hardly be ignored in the 21st century. Actually, it is one of the landmark technological creations of the century. In June 2011, Facebook became the most visited site based on reports by DoubleClick, according to which the social media reached 1 trillion page views (Juliet and Robert 5). According to a study conducted by Nielsen Media Research, it became the 2nd most accessed site in Unites States of America after Google (Arrington 2). Just like any technology, Facebook use entails certain issues regarding age of users, data security, connectivity, safety, and effects on people's lives and welfare.


Facebook as an educational tool

Education is vital for the society hence it is important to evaluate whether Facebook promotes education or undermines its quality. At this point, it is worth mentioning that Facebook per se is a product of education. It was invented for the purpose of connecting and sharing ideas within campus by Harvard students, namely, Mark Zuckeberg,Chris Hughes, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Andrew McCollum (Lee 6). The fact that it was an invention of students might be enough evidence on its ability to promote education and personal development of the youth. Before invention of Facebook, teachers used to inform students on necessary updates and future events using newsletters and memos. Presently, it is not only cheaper, but easier to inform students about classes in Facebook groups and news feed. Moreover, the site allows exchange of messages, pictures and video. Almost every student owns a mobile phone with a network that supports Facebook App (Lee 5). This software makes it easier for students to have online consultations with their teachers. Recently, the corporation acquired Whatsupp. This application allows students to form class groups and share learning materials in Pdf format, receive instant updates about class, share videos and learning messages faster, easier and with minimal use of mobile data. Facebook constantly upgrades the tools that can be instrumental in the learning process, for example, email notifications, news feeds, Facebook chat, messenger, and questioning tool. Using questioning tool, teachers and students can forward their questions to a class group or individually. This "virtual venue" stimulates education-related discussions and sharing of ideas. At the same time, however, Facebook can be a time waster for lazy students. The site allows students to connect with friends, family, celebrities, and participate in numerous entertaining activities. Consequently, they may waste precious time they would have better invested in learning on socializing and meeting new friends who may not contribute positively to their education. However, whether to use this social networking site as an educational tool or as another possibility to waste time is everyone's personal choice. Facebook is an important tool that aids learning and, despite the few shortcomings, it definitely contributes positively to sharing of knowledge and relevant news among students.

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Effectiveness of Facebook in marketing

Facebook, with its 1 billion active daily users, exceeds even Twitter, hence it is a well-defined advertising tool. The value of this corporation is ten times as much as Twitters. Consequently, investors are more attracted to Facebook due to its ability to guarantee income. Revenues from Facebook advertisements continue growing, evidenced by taking of $3.8 billion in the second quarter, compared to $2.7 billion in 2014 (Lee 13). This increase represents a 41% growth. The online social network service provider also demonstrated its global extensiveness after it reached $2 billion of international revenue (Arrington 9). It is also expected that the corporation would grow after leveraging Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Facebook is the first tool many business use when start. Engagement is an important factor to consider when discussing the effectiveness of Facebook in marketing compared to other sites. In the past years, several companies aired numerous complaints concerning alarming decrease in the amount of organic reach of their posts on the website. Their main concern was that unless a company pays to advance a comment, it would not manage to garner a maximum reach. According to Research by Social@Ogilvy, organic reach of contents aired on Facebook registered a 49% decline in a period of less than 6 months (Arrington 8). Nevertheless, posts on Facebook still get substantial engagement. This research showed that for 1 million followers on Twitter there are 300 interactions, whereas for 1 million Facebook followers 700 interactions occur. Facebook has recently shifted towards video, which is a vital tool for social marketing. Facebook CEO reported that the site had 8 billion video views in 2015. The corporation is in the process of developing better applications to boost video technology on its site, for example, the launch of 360 video technology recently is an enormous step towards video marketing.

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Security of private data

Privacy is a core issue in such a democratic country as United States of America. People are concerned about the extent to which the corporation goes to protect personal information posted on their profiles. Facebook blocks anywhere from 250,000 to 600,000 hack attempts a day (Lee 15). The site enabled 'https: //' lock as an optional security measure, remote logout, two-factor authentication, addition of mobile number for extra security, suspicious activity alerts, it also offers tips on password creation and storage of data. Google stores search results for 18 months, while Facebook stores information on deactivated accounts. However, in 2009, the site had a security issue on Search that enabled users to see everything in another user's "Basic Information", section regardless of their security settings (Lee 16). So far, this was fixed. To ensure privacy, the site allows use of pseudonyms, sharing of information from companion sites, blocking people from seeing a post, simplified contract organization and stops tracking after one logs out (Arrington 7). Nevertheless, according to Nick Cubrilovic, an entrepreneur and hacker, the site can track the web pages one visits even when a person is logged out (qtd. in Lee 18). Compared to Google which does not allow a pseudonym and blocks strangers from seeing one's posts, Facebook still lags behind. With high number of users, the site has been a target of scams. Some of the scams include: click-jacking, cross-site scripting such as "Self-XSS", and identity theft. Self-XSS attacks are able to run obfuscated JavaScript on one's computer that gives room for installation of malware without a person's awareness. Like-jacking also referred to as "UI redressing" is a malicious technique that tricks users into showing their confidential information to the public or may even hack into one's computer (Lee 17). A social networking poll conducted by, asking users about the social network that they believed posed the biggest security risk, ranked Facebook with 81 percent of the votes, while other social sites, such as MySpace, Twitter received 8 percent of the votes and LinkedIn garnered 3 percent. In short, Facebook can be seen to make users more vulnerable in the security of their data compared to other sites due to mammoth number of its users.

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Reputation of Facebook in relation to protection of user's privacy has been soiled in recent years. According to reports aired on CNN on May 11, 2011, Symantec, a technology firm that offers network security for companies, indicated that about 100,000 applications on Facebook accidentally leak access to Facebook accounts of users for many years (Gross 1). Users normally install up to 20 million applications daily on its platform (Gross 1). In 2010, the announcement that it would proceed to make user's name, work, education, hometown, likes and dislikes public was the start of Facebook hesitation to protect user's data (Lee 9). Some experts noted that increase in disclosure of information could lead to serious side-effects, such as creating new avenues for hackers. For instance, Kevin John, a security expert and researcher with InGuardians, uses this site to test security of companies' network. Occasionally, he says, the greatest threats are posed not by the software or hardware, but by social networks. The information that employees leak on social networks can be used in impersonating for the purpose of recovering a password. Therefore, Facebook does not guarantee 100% protection of sensitive information for its users, as proved by the increase in cases of online fraud and continuous threats of hacking. In theory, the new security features on the site offer protection against spam, scam and leakage of personal information but so far it has been ineffectual.

This paper evaluates the social network giant, Facebook, on three basic criteria: influence on education, effectiveness as a marketing tool and ability to protect privacy of its users. Facebook has played a big role in connecting people from all over the world. Companies can now reach their global audience through Facebook and students' lives have been made much easier due to several applications on Facebook that enable them to interact. It also allows effective marketing for both big companies and start-ups. Despite several security challenges, Facebook's contribution to connectivity is hard to overestimate.

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